Love wine, but not entirely up to speed with all the terminology? Never fear! The expert team at Louisvale Wines have your back. Here’s a look at basic wine types everyone should know, and a few tips to enjoy them like a pro!

Red and White

The most obvious wine difference is, of course, red vs white. If it’s got a golden or greenish tinge, it’s a white, and anything from pale pink to deep ruby is red. 

You’d assume that means white grapes for white wine and vice-versa, right? Wrong! Some white wines do use red and black grape varieties, it’s just that they don’t leave pigment traces in the wine itself.

What is a white wine?

What are they like as wines, however? White wines are light and slightly herby/savoury or very fresh with crisp fruit tones. Some ‘heavier’ whites are a little creamy or buttery. Cape Chardonnay, the Louisvale flagship variety, is one of the most versatile wines in the world, and you find anything from very light and crisp unwooded varieties to rich, creamy wines. Another classic white is Sauvignon Blanc.

While wine rules are always there to be broken, whites are usually paired with delicate meats (poultry and fish) and non-fatty veg so as not to drown their taste. They’re also great with salads, creamy cheeses, and lighter desserts. Serve it in a tall wine glass for extra points!

Tell me about red wine, then?

Red wines are always portrayed as heavier and more robust than whites, but it’s not all that true. Some of the light reds are almost like blushing white wines and can be very delicate.

But most reds are richer and heavier because the entirety of the grape was used to make them, including skin and pip, so they get more tannins (yes, the same as in tea). Pinot Noir, Merlot, and Cabernet Sauvignon are key red wines to know. 

Because they’re more robust, they match dishes with more fat, meat, or deep flavour. Lighter reds are great with poultry and some ‘dense’ or ‘gamey’ fish as well as grilled veggies, while roast veg, smoked meats, and red meats shine with full-bodied reds. Typically, the darker and thicker the red, the more full-bodied. The wide-mouthed wine glasses are used for reds.

So what’s a rosé and a dessert wine?

Rosé can be made from a red grape variety or a blend of red and white. Traditionally by leaving the juice on the skins for 1-2 hours gives the wine its blushing colour. It’s an iconic summer wine and loves anything light and breezy you could snack on at Alfresco lunches, a pool side wine on a hot day- think fishes, poultry, fruit, and light desserts. It’s also a great breakfast wine. 

Dessert or sweet wines are a lot more ambiguous, and they’re not defined by colour. Some whites count as dessert wines, although reds dominate. Rather, their defining characteristic is that they would be too sweet to match anything but a desert well. Traditional dessert wines are Noble Late Harvests,  Late Harvests and Natural Sweet. 

As well as dessert, dessert wines suit smoked meats and spreadable cheeses, and some go well with biltong too. You serve them in a shot glass or small wine glass, as they’re too overwhelming to drink a ‘full’ glass.

Where do sparkling wines fit in?

Like dessert wines, sparkling wines can be White, Rosé or Red. They’re characterized by their bubbly effervescence, and we see them as celebration wines best used on special occasions. The bubbles can be added by simple carbonation, but that’s not acceptable for true MCCs and Champagnes. These are re-fermented with extra sugar and yeast, the only wines where you are allowed to add extra sugar! Then they rest on the lees for at least another year to introduce natural sparkle. 

A word on that: we call most sparkly wines champagne, but Champagne is actually a wine-growing area in France, and only wines that go through a second fermentation in the bottle from the specific region can be called Champagne. Other re-fermented wines of the same quality are called either by their own region (like Prosecco from Italy or Cava from Spain) or have ‘methodé champagné’ on the bottle. A new trend is Pét-Nat, where the yeast is not removed after secondary fermentation.Unlike Champagne, Pét-Nat is not disgorged, and may or may not be filtered on completion of fermentation.

Method Cap Classique (MCC) is a very special designation given to the very best South African true sparkling wines, and many rival famous international Champagnes. Serve your MCC in a long, elegant flute or a white wine glass to enhance aromas. This stops the bubbles from flattening and keeps it chilled. 

And there you have it! This basic wine guide from Louisvale Wines means you’ll find your favourite in no time. Don’t forget to add a super-special Louisvale MCC to your trolley for the next special occasion, too!